Congressman Eliot Engel, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen re-introduced the Early Treatment for HIV Act" (ETHA) on Thursday to allow states to extend Medicaid coverage to low-income individuals with the HIV virus before it advances to full-blown AIDS. Currently, most lower-income persons must first become disabled by AIDS before receiving Medicaid provided care and treatment, which could have prevented them from becoming seriously ill, and at which point treatment is far more expensive.
There are 44 original co-sponsors of the legislation, including an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. The following are the original co-sponsors of the Early Treatment for HIV Act - Democrats are listed in regular font, Republicans are in italics:
Baldwin, Biggert, Bono Mack, Capps, Castle, Christensen, DeGette, Dent, L. Diaz- Balart, M. Diaz-Balart, Doyle, Ehlers, Emerson, ENGEL, Frelinghuysen, Garrett, Gonzalez, Gordon, G. Green, Harman, Hinchey, Inslee, P. King, Kirk, Lance, Latham, LoBiondo, Markey, Matsui, McCotter, McHugh, Pallone, Paul, PELOSI, Rangel, ROS-LEHTINEN, Rush, Schakowsky, Sessions, C. Smith, Stark, Upton, Waxman, Weiner.
Rep. Engel, a senior member of the Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee said, "Treating patients with HIV is more cost effective for the federal government since it is much more expensive to treat patients with AIDS than HIV. More importantly, it will also save lives while preserving the quality of life for thousands of persons living with HIV. As Congress works towards comprehensive health reform, passage of ETHA is a solid step towards modernizing the Medicaid program. This is sensible and humane public policy at its best. It will also save people's lives."
"Treating patients with HIV will preserve the quality of life for thousands of Americans. It is also more cost effective for the federal government since it is much more expensive to treat patients with AIDS than HIV. As Congress works towards comprehensive health reform, passage of ETHA is a solid step towards modernizing the Medicaid program. This is sensible and humane public policy at its best. It will also save people's lives," added Rep. Engel.
This is sensible and humane public policy at its best that will save people's lives," added Rep. Engel.
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, said, "It makes no sense that a person must develop full blown AIDS before Medicaid can treat them. This legislation would remedy this by giving states the option to extend Medicaid coverage to low income persons so that they can confront their HIV before it becomes AIDS and thus help them from becoming terminally ill and a burden on their families and the public health system. I urge my colleagues to help us pass this bill and correct this cruel and nonsensical system."
The proposed legislation has been endorsed by leading public health advocacy groups including the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, the AIDS Institute, Human Rights Campaign, AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth and Families, the New York City AIDS Coalition and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. (For a full list of endorsements, see the list below)
Medicaid coverage for people living with HIV is now contingent on two factors; qualifying as low income and meeting the Social Security definition of disability. This means uninsured HIV Positive people, outside of the Ryan White CARE ACT, must wait for their health status to be compromised beyond repair, to deteriorate to full-blown AIDS, before they can get healthcare coverage under Medicaid.
"This defies logic as current federal guidelines call for early access to medical care and treatment including the use of combination antiretroviral therapy,' said Rep. Engel.
ETHA gives states the option of amending their Medicaid eligibility requirements to include uninsured, pre-disabled low-income people living with HIV. ETHA is modeled after the successful Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act (BCCA) that allows states to provide early access to Medicaid to women with cancer. As with the BCCA, participating states would receive an enhanced federal matching rate, the same that is provided through the breast and cervical cancer Medicaid project and S-CHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program).
Rep. Engel said, "By keeping people healthy, the government saves money on expensive medical interventions, such as emergency care or hospitalizations. Also, new medications now allow people with HIV to remain in the workforce longer, and reduce the need for support from government income subsidy programs like SSI and SSDI. As we deal with our current economic crisis, legislation such as this will help not only to save lives, but to save money as well."
Rep. Engel said cost savings, while not immediate, would take place over time. Early, effective treatment will limit the number of people whose health status progresses to full-blown AIDS and health care costs will be minimized. "Best of all, there will be a 50% decrease in lives lost to this terrible disease," added Rep. Engel.